There are a million little bits and pieces of the Star Wars expanded universe, and of all of them, the one that fascinates me the most is the history of the Sith. Their history is uniquely odd; at one time, the Sith were a real species before being conquered by the Dark Jedi. Eventually the Sith went extinct through conquest and interbreeding, and the Dark Jedi who practiced with the Dark Side of The Force took up Sith as a sort of honorary title themselves. They ran empires, developed a harsh hierarchy, and were visible threats to the Galactic Republic. The title Darth was first taken on by force-sensitive Sith, then reserved for one Sith who was recognized as their greatest, then wiped out before being brought back after Darth Bane took the Sith movement underground, activating the famous Rule of Two which resulted in the Revenge of the Sith, the grand plan which nearly destroyed the Jedi a thousand years after Darth Bane's death.
Naturally, I'm open to any new insight on the Sith the Star Wars expanded universe has to offer me. Naturally, I was intrigued when I saw the Book of Sith in the local Barnes and Noble. This book doesn't have the name of the actual author anywhere inside it. It's made up to look like some kind of important lost text - hardbound, with no other wording anywhere on the outside except for the title Star Wars Book of Sith and the name of the publisher. The Star Wars Wiki says the author is Daniel Wallace.
The Book of Sith is written as a series of journal entries from the various notable Darths who existed in years past. It's presented by Darth Sidious (Emperor Palpatine), who tracked down the pivotal texts of five highly regarded Sith Lords and wove them together in a single volume. He is also one of several Star Wars characters to add occasional footnotes, along with Luke Skywalker (who is chronologically clearly the last character to have read it), Yoda, Mace Windu, Darth Vader, Asajj Ventress, and Quinlan Vos.
The Book of Sith goes by in six distinct texts, each with different page designs, calligraphy, and character footnotes. They're presented in chronological order. The first is the exile journal of Sorzus Syn, the original exile to Korriban who conquered the Sith purebloods and became the first Sith Lords. That's followed by a war journal from Darth Malgus during the Great Galactic War. Following that is a journal from Darth Bane, arguably the most pivotal figure in Sith history, the man who took down the Brotherhood of Sith, took the movement into the Shadows, and enacted the Rule of Two and Sith master plan. After that is an instructional manual from Mother Talzin of the Nightsisters, exploring her peoples' use of the Dark Side. Afterward is a scientific journal from Darth Plagueis which details his experiments with midi-chlorians, the tiny beings which enable Force Sensitivity. Finally, Darth Sidious adds his word about political manipulation. It might sound a little overwhelming, but this entire books clocks in at just a little more than 150 easy to read pages.
Some of the major Darths who are missing from the compilation are Darth Revan, one of the most interesting characters in the expanded universe; Darth Gravid, who was drawn toward the Light Side of The Force and tried to weave some of the teachings of the Jedi into Sith philosophy; and Darth Ruin, who initiated the New Sith Wars against the Jedi.
The first the parts are the most interesting. Sorzus Syn and Darth Malgus both write about important events in the history of the Sith, and Darth Bane writes what became the defining philosophy of the Sith for all time; his section includes several aspects of the Star Wars universe that people unfamiliar with anything about it outside the movies know. On the downside, Mother Talzin's section about the Nightsisters feels like a real waste. The Nightsisters come off as sort of Dark Side users, but sort of not. Mother Talzin writes them almost as if they're practitioners of one of the Earth religions - I mean REAL Earth religions; there seems to be a real influence of Wiccan philosophy in her writings - but with a slight edge toward evil. Then Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious both get their writings in.
Without doubt, Darth Sidious comes off as the most evil by far. And that's saying something, because Sorzus Syn isn't exactly a bringer of world peace. Sidious is also the most overconfident, cruel, and the closest to some of the worst dictators Earth has ever seen. Not only does he promote a political philosophy hinging on instilling fear into his subjects, but his footnotes - which appear in every section - show him to be a supreme egotist as well. He believes with with great haughtiness and a frightening absolute certainty that he's going to use the scientific midi-chlorian experiment advances to become immortal, and so he repeatedly writes about his refusal to name a successor.
If there's any kind of theme within the Book of Sith worth noting, it's how sinister the Dark Side can really be. In many sections, the Sith finally come off as a true evil. I've been saying for awhile that the Jedi are just as bad as the Sith, except unlike the Sith, they lie to themselves about who they really are. The Book of Sith makes it clear how cruel Sith philosophies are. Sorzus Syn approves of slavery and writes prominently about using other beings. Darth Bane states that, without any exception, every Sith Master will eventually be killed by their apprentice. Darth Sidious wants to make sure his people live in perpetual fear.
Star Wars Book of Sith isn't a bad look into the Dark Side of The Force, but I'm a little disappointed, because of its potential. It could have been much more. I still don't know why later Sith Lords have reverence for Darth Revan, a man who was only a Sith Lord for a few years before redeeming himself as a Jedi. I would love to know more about Sith Alchemy and more about the rise and fall of the Sith Empires. Book of Sith will do for now, but I'm hoping there's much more on the horizon.